Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness

Afternoon delight.

That the PSP should receive heavily embellished ports of two of the greatest strategy RPGs ever made within weeks of one another is, at once, cause for wild celebration and cause for mild irritation. Celebration because both Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea are astounding achievements of intelligent design, assured form and delightful function; annoyance because the proximity of their second comings will force free time-impoverished players to choose one over the other when, in all honesty, both are fiercely individual games and both make for essential playing.

Disgaea is the younger game by some stretch. First released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 (as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness) it arrived without fanfare, the creation of an obscure Japanese developer, Nippon Ichi, known only to the most dedicated importers for the musical RPG Rhapsody. Until Disgaea's arrival the SRPG was a genre deeply entrenched in tradition, the grid-based mechanics - where games play out like two generals moving toy soldiers across a tactical map in a battle for domination - solid and immovable, nobody willing to venture far from their strict rules. Indeed, following 1997's Final Fantasy Tactics, the near perfect expression and realisation of ten years of preceding tradition, virtually no developer or publisher tried their hand at the genre.

All of which made Disgaea's arrival all the more of a surprise and goes to show how meteoric the rise of the game and its developer's reputation actually was. Rather than trying to compete with the strait-laced storyline and aesthetic of all that had gone before, Disgaea instead opts for an irreverent art style and storyline in the style of a universally appealing comedy anime show (Excel Saga springs to mind). Set in the esoteric Netherworld, the game pulls back the curtain on the prissy but loveable anti-hero Laharl as he awakens from a two-year sleep in the belly of a hellish castle. Heir to the underworld kingdom, Laharl's slumber has meant he missed his father's passing and, with it, his chance to take the throne. Within moments he's off, tracking down the usurping rival demon Vyers, who comes to be disparagingly known as 'Mid-boss' as the game progresses.

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PSP: 12 Games of Christmas

Sleigh with me.

If in doubt, buy your parents something you want and reclaim at a later date - a useful mantra handed down from generation to generation. I once bought my sister a CD that will remain nameless for shame purposes, even though she had no flashy machinery to play it on. But I did. So, when I suggested she hand the disc to me and keep the cassette recording I had selflessly made for herself, I was expecting nothing but cooperation. Bloody witch didn't see it like that though, did she? Threw a right strop. Ungrateful. But looking back at my foolish youth of yester-year I can see how much I have changed. She lives in China for a start, so no need to get her anything. Present for sister: tick.